Hardtack is a simple biscuit made of little more than flour and water. Used for centuries as a nonperishable foodstuff on military expeditions and sea voyages, it was one of the primary rations given to Union soldiers during the Civil War. While hardtack is cheap, high caloric, and long-lasting, it’s not exactly haute cuisine—even when it’s freshly baked. Union soldiers gave the hard-to-chew cracker all manner of unflattering nicknames [PDF], from “teeth-dullers" to “worm castles,” and the cracker was said to be so hard, soldiers had to hit it with the butt of their rifle just to break off a piece.
But despite the snack’s less-than-sterling reputation, YouTube user Steve1989 MREinfo decided he wanted to try it for himself. In the video above, Steve1989 MREinfo eats a piece of hardtack made for Union soldiers over a century and a half ago in 1863. This authentic Civil War hardtack is very likely the oldest cracker ever eaten.
In the video, Steve1989 MREinfo, who has produced YouTube reviews of other old military rations (though none quite this old), is predictably unimpressed by the flavor. While there’s certainly a gross-out element to watching him literally consume a piece of history, the video also provides a fascinating hands-on history lesson on 19th century military rations. Check it out above.
Image Credit: Steve1989 MREinfo, YouTube